#FREETHE5KH PRESS RELEASE – Phnom Penh, 8 September 2016
One month after launch, #FreeThe5KH campaign maintains call for release of human rights defenders
Today – 8 September 2016 – marks one month since the launch of the #FreeThe5KH campaign, and the 133rd day of imprisonment for the five Cambodian human rights defenders, who remain in detention on criminal charges that bear all the hallmarks of being politically motivated.
Since its launch, #FreeThe5KH has attracted significant support from across Cambodia, the region and beyond. Almost 300 postcards carrying messages of solidarity and support have already been collected, 140 of which have already been delivered to the five detainees in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison and Police Judiciaire. In addition to the 52 Cambodian and international civil society organisations that issued the initial campaign statement, two further groups have added their voices to the campaign.
However, despite encouraging support for the campaign so far, the five activists remain in detention, with no end in sight. On 5 September, the Supreme Court postponed a scheduled bail hearing for Mr. Ny Sokha, Mr. Yi Soksan, Mr. Nay Vanda and Ms. Lim Mony, who continue to be held in pre-trial detention in violation of Cambodian law and their internationally guaranteed rights to liberty and a fair trial. Mr. Ny Chakrya, in addition to being charged as an accomplice to bribery, will face trial on 22 September in a separate defamation case brought by Siem Reap provincial court officials.
Meanwhile, the last month has seen a further troubling escalation of the harassment of civil society and restriction of fundamental freedoms in Cambodia. By the end of August, 36 arrests of at least 20 people had occurred at Black Monday protests, with a further six protesters arrested on Monday 6 September and held overnight. Those arrested include two members of the Boeng Kak Community, one of the implementing partners of the #FreeThe5KH campaign. Ms. Tep Vanny and Ms. Bov Sophea were arrested on 15 August, and on 22 August, following a 90-minute trial during which the judge unexpectedly changed the charges at the last minute, were convicted of “insult of a public official.” While Bov Sophea was released having already served six days in detention, Tep Vanny remains in pre-trial detention on previously dormant charges linked to a protest in 2013.
The #FreeThe5KH campaign will continue for as long as the five remain in arbitrary detention, and invites supporters to send messages to the five to remind them that they are not forgotten and help keep their morale high while they remain in detention.